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It’s one of the biggest problems that keeps struggling practices from succeeding. On this episode of the Dentist Money™ Show, Patty Ricard, dental practice manager, consultant and life coach, addresses a common issue in office management, and shares her keys for your practice to reach peak performance. She talks with Reese about what methods you can use to build better patient and team loyalty – and why instituting just a few changes can lead to more profitability.
Reese: Welcome to the Dentist Money™ Show, where we help dentists make smart financial decisions. I’m your host Reese Harper here with practice management consultant Patty Ricard. Patty, welcome to the show.
Patty: Thank you so much for having me! I’m excited to be here.
Reese: Yeah, I’m really excited too, because it doesn’t sound like very many people have been able to get you to come on and do a podcast; if I’m not mistaken, this might be your first one.
Patty: It is my first one!
Reese: Yes!! I’m always excited about that, because the best podcast guests are the ones who people don’t really know about because they live in the quiet corners of the country, and you are no exception to that in Southern California. I’ve been doing a lot of work with dentists all over the country with their consultants, and hearing their stories, and one of our clients who works with you told us that you were the best consultant he’s ever worked with, and that kind of peaked my attention, because this person is pretty discerning, and so I was just grateful that you were able to make some time for us today, and I have got some awesome questions prepared. Thanks again for coming one, and hopefully this will just feel like a conversation, and hopefully your first experience will be a positive one.
Patty: I’m looking forward to it.
Reese: Let’s start out talking about one of the things I’m sure you have a lot of good perspective into, which is, if you could think about the differences between practices that struggle, and practices that thrive, what are some of the most important things that you see that separate a thriving practice from one that’s struggling?
Patty: I have to say hands down it would be communication skills: the ability to have a team that is cohesive. They are on the same page, they know what they need to do, they take initiative, and they are able to communicate with each other and their patients effectively–hands down I think that is number one.
Reese: Is that something that is easy to teach people? Because I think some people feel like it feels difficult to learn those skills. You’re either born a good communicator… I don’t know, do you think some people are born with good communications skills and some are not? How would you view the landscape?
Patty: Oh, absolutely! I think there are some people that are a little more introverted, and it is a little more challenging for them to step out of their comfort zone; I don’t think it’s impossible. I think it really is a matter of being willing and open to stepping out of that comfort zone, and I kind of liken it to going to the gym for the very first time. I am going to kind of date myself now, but when you to an aerobics class or something, I think back, and the very first time you jump in there, you know you’re uncoordinated and you know that you don’t know what is going on, so where do you stand? You stand in the back, because it’s awkward, and you know that everybody is watching you, and it’s uncomfortable! And it’s in those uncomfortable places that you actually learn, and if you are willing to do that and kind of step into that uncomfortable place, after a few classes and a few times of trying, you start to move forward a little bit, and you don’t feel so awkward and uncomfortable. So, I think it really comes down to being open. There are some people for whom it’s just innate: they are comfortable, and they will jump right in. For others, it is a lot harder; some are willing, and some are not.
Reese: It’s interesting, because I have always been comfortable communicating with other people. I like to talk; I like to write. But learning good communication skills… it kind of surprised me, the more I was actually put in an opportunity to speak more, to write more, or to communicate a lot more, to have a lot more interactions… I found that I wasn’t actually as good as it as I thought I was, if that makes sense. I felt like there was a lot more to learn than I ever realized about good communication, and just getting along with people doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being an effective communicator. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but I kind of realized that myself. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Patty: I totally agree. It’s not about being the life of the party or getting along with people. Of course, people are comfortable around people that like the same things that they like; what’s challenging is having conversations with people that don’t necessarily agree with you, or that kind of poke holes in your theories, or in your likes, if you will, and so that can make us uncomfortable. Again, it is that uncomfortable place that you can find yourself in that is not the same as a social interaction.
Reese: So, let’s talk about it: what is good communication? If you are trying to teach someone good communication skills, let’s talk specifically about the doctor, because it sounds like it’s different—I’m sure it might be a little bit different if you were speaking to a front desk manager, or an office manager, or if you were talking to an assistant, or a hygienist, but if we had to just think of the audience being the doctor right now, what defines good communications skills from a doctor?
Patty: Speaking to team members, or patients?
Reese: Again, you’re bringing it up! There’s another context (laughs). Let’s talk about the context of the doctor communicating with the patient, and then we will talk about the doctor communication with the team.
Patty: Okay. Doctors communicating with patients: this is an area I find a lot of doctors sometimes struggle with a little bit, and some of it comes down to their background, and they are so passionate about what they do that they will often find themselves talking in what I call “Dental-ese,” it’s almost like a foreign language. They get into the technical side of what they do, which is not necessarily a bad thing, because they really want to communicate effectively what they see, and what they are recommending. The challenge is that they are using languages that patients sometimes don’t understand, so this is one are that I find doctors could be better at. Instead of saying “decay” or “carries,” call it a cavity! That is what patients understand.
Reese: And you’re saying in this doctor-patient relationship, people assume way too much about the patient’s understanding of what is going on?
Patty: Oh, absolutely. And patients will sit there, and they’ll smile, and they’ll nod like they know everything you are saying, and they don’t know anything. They don’t know what you’re saying, and so you really have to break it down to a language that patients can understand. I want to kind of build on top of that too with being very aware of some of the words you use to describe things that can really be scary for patients. Every time I hear a hygienist or a doctor talk about scaling and root planing, I think, “oh, ouch!” My whole body tenses up! It’s not a good word. It’s the technical term, it’s not the term that we have to use as clinicians. How about calling it something that is a little more friendly like “periodontal therapy?” Or let’s say, “we’re going to numb you up, and we are going to clean out that infected area, and maybe even place some antibiotic in there to help it heal.” Saying “we’re going to numb you up and we’re going to scale and root plane that area”? Yikes! I don’t want anyone to do that to me! So, it’s finding those words that patients understand. The other side of communicating with patients that I find doctors struggle with sometimes is the huge fear factor of being rejected, and so sometimes, I find that doctors will present stuff, and really what is on their mind is presenting it, getting out of their room as quick as possible, and letting someone else take over, because they are fearful of the patient rejecting the treatment that has been recommended That is another issue; what I will say, though, is that roleplaying is by far the best thing to implement as part of the regular standard practice. Getting better at that is roleplaying: stepping out of your comfort zone and practicing!
Reese: Do you do that with your clients? Do you help them roleplay?
Patty: Absolutely. Yes yes yes!
Reese: My guess is that if you said, “you should roleplay,” everyone is going to be okay, “okay?” It’s a hard thing to do without someone forcing you to do it, right?
Patty: Oh, nobody likes it. It’s probably, in my opinion, one of the best ways to improve communication skills. It’s practice! There’s nothing that we can do and ever be good at without practicing it, and that is the same with communication skills. Everyone has been brought up differently, and you are kind of a product of your childhood, and the way your parents spoke, and what you’ve learned in school, and almost nobody has spent any time teaching people about good communication skills. It has been proven, basically, that 55% of how we communicate is through our body language, and the rest in tone and the words we use, so it’s huge! I also recommend videotaping yourself when you’re speaking with patients; that is a huge eye-opener! You’ll start to notice things like “oh, I rub my ear!” or, “oh, I rub my head!” and all these things that you never knew you did before, and it really helps you improve your body language skills, as well as your overall speaking skills, and the words you use, your tone, all of those things. And you get a sense of how the patients are responding if you have the video camera set up in such a way that you can see both of you at the same time. Practice is huge. Nobody—and I’m not going to lie to you—everyone kinds of moans and groans. We don’t like doing role playing! It’s awkward, but it is the best thing. What I will tell you, though, is that every single time I provide a training, whether it’s a small group or a large group, and you ask the team and the end, “what spoke to you most? What’s your greatest takeaway?” It’s always the roleplaying. That’s the thing they complained about the most, but that they walk away from with the most reward.
Reese: It’s interesting you say that. In my experience, there are two types of communications that I have to go through: one is speaking to a group, and one is speaking to a client, a doctor. When speaking to a group, I have to put together sometimes between thirty minutes, and it could be as much as three hours of presentation time, depending on the CE, and I always put a lot of time into prepping the material, like a ton of time. But my CMO that works for me named Justin, we call him Q, he’s on the podcast on weeks when people like you aren’t on, he told me when he first got here a few years ago, “man, you’ve gotta go present this to me in the conference room.” I’m like, “I don’t want to present this to you; you aren’t, like, a real person.” It felt awkward, so I just said, “I’ll just do it when I’m there, and it’ll be fine. It’s always fine.” And he said, “no, dude. If you’re going to tell this story, you’ve gotta practice this story, and you’ve gotta tell it to me. And not once. We’ve gotta do it like three or four times. It’s more important that you rehearse this then it is that you just go prep it. Prepping it is 20% of the battle, but 80% of this needs to be you presenting it, and you’ve gotta rehearse it.” So, it was super awkward, and I still doing like it. I’m getting better at feeling like I can present to someone—I’m better at in now than I was. It’s still a little awkward, but I feel way better presenting and practicing, and I can almost put any of my team members in that conference room with me, and I can present to them and not feel dumb. But man, that first several times is really hard. But the second thing I wanted to say is about this video thing you’re talking about. Right now, the way our financial advice works is we give a report that tells them something every month that is important for them to do, and then our advisors record a video. We started doing this just recently to improve the understanding of the report. Instead of doing a phone call, when doctors had to schedule time, we record this video where they see the advisor’s face and the report, and we send it to the client, and what I noticed was that all of my advisors started noticing their own insecurities about the way they presented information, including myself, because I had to do this for clients I serviced directly, and I saw my own recording of my own face presenting the material. I started seeing like “man, you look kind of depressed! You’re not really that depressed, are you?” I just noticed I wasn’t smiling as much as I thought I was! I wasn’t as happy as I felt like I was when I was presenting the material, and I noticed that sometimes I wasn’t looking at the camera, but I was looking down at the camera, and it was like I wasn’t making eye contact with the person, or with the camera. I learned so much about myself that affected my in-person presentation skills because I was able to see myself recorded, and see what I was doing wrong, and I just think that dentists, in many ways, are doing the same thing: they have group presentations that are with their team most often, and then they also have these patients that they are interacting with. And I think that you have to practice presenting information the right way with some kind of a guided coach, or an objective person that can give you feedback, maybe one of the team members could do it, I don’t know, but it seems like hiring a coach or a consultant specifically on that would be helpful, but either way, you have to practice both of these methods or you end up with not enough experience. At least that was my own takeaway. feel like I’m so much better than I used to be because of those two things, and they weren’t really things I would have done on my own, they just happened to be the consequence of a good person around me telling me to do it, and then recording these videos and then going, “wow!” So, I just wanted to share that with you; I’m curious what your takeaways were from that little episode I shared.
Patty: It reminds me of preparing for a presentation, and one of the things that I do, which is recording myself with a video on my laptop, and then playing it back and going over it and over it. I start to notice things about body language, my tone, things of that nature, and I want to perfect it. The very first time I did that, the lightbulb went off, and I thought, oh gosh, I know that roleplaying is important, and we need to do it with each other in order to get comfortable doing it with patients, and in doing this, practicing through my laptop and videotaping myself practicing, I have then taken that to the doctors and the team members and said, “okay, so we’re going to roleplay today, and when you go home, how many of you are constantly taking selfies and videos? Why not use that time to practice videotaping yourself doing some of this roleplaying?” Watch yourself! Give yourself some scenario where you’re presenting treatment to a patient, or you’re at the front desk presenting financial arrangements. Go through a scenario and video yourself, and you will improve dramatically. Another thing that you said that really just got me so excited was when you said that you thought you smiled more, and you could hear the difference. One of the things that is so huge when doctors are investing tons of money into, let’s say marketing. Well, your marketing dollars are only as good as the person answering the phone, and if that person answering your phone is not answering the phone with enthusiasm, and you can’t feel them smiling on the other end, and we know! We know if they’re smiling, because you can hear it, just as much as you can hear someone who is not, you can hear when someone is, and it’s huge. So, your marketing dollars, again, are only as good as the person answering your phone. It is probably one of the most important roles in the practice, and the least invested in, or even considered sometimes for training on communication skills.
Reese: For continuing ed, and training! It seems like a really low-hanging fruit area. I guess the thing that I’ve noticed in my own case is that when you present information– and I’m going to relate this to the front desk—when I go and do a large CE event, some of my events fall flat, and we will get about 1% of the audience reaching out for help. I do a lot of education, and I’m not very sales-y, maybe that’s half of my problem, we could talk about that as a whole different questions (laughs), but I’ve noticed that sometimes when I present, and my energy is really good, and when I’m really enjoying myself, and I am really enjoying the material, I have much better results from my presentations, right? I end up having more people call in for help. Much more. I mean, you can present the same material and have 100% different results. Not just 50%, but really you could have like zero impact, or maximum impact. And when you look at the two core areas—I mean, there are probably two or three key moments in the patient’s life cycle when there is a chance for that experience to either be failure or success, and it is all at these communication points. It’s the hygienist communication point; it’s the assistant’s communication point. I mean a lot of the times, the assistant is so shy and so timid and so reserved in some of the practices I’ve visited; I have really felt like the assistants and the hygienists have been so reserved that I kind of wonder if they are having a good day, or if they even like they’re job, I’m wondering if they are just bored, or if they are mad at something, and I know that they are not probably thinking those things… they are just doing a normal day getting their job done. But you’re grading people based on their interactions with you—
Patty: And if you’re sensing that, so are the patients; they know. They can feel it.
Reese: And when the doctor presents treatment, that’s another massive moment right there. You can’t be objectively—I don’t know, I’m not just going to listen to your information and then make a decision. I have to feel that this is something that you care about.
Patty: Absolutely! And it comes across in the way it is communicated, and it is important to kind of really spend the time to understand what is important to a patient; you really have to know them in order to communicated, and to build a bridge and a connection with them so that whatever information you are going to be relaying to the patient is exactly what meets their goals, not yours. That’s important as well, as well as being able to communicate that effectively.
Reese: That is such good insight. I think sometimes that the word “sales” in today’s culture has a little bit of a negative connotation. You don’t want to get “sold.” If you just take away the negative connotation and say that “sales” is like the only way that any business, including dentistry, really thrives. You have to have higher than average sales; you have to have higher than average conversion; you have to have higher than average case acceptance, and case presentation; higher than average new patients; higher than average visits; higher than average scheduling, efficiency, or whatever metric, right? At the end of the day, it really is sales, but I think sales has more to do with positive communications skills, what you’re highlighting; positive communication skills is sales, you know?
Patty: It is! You are, and let’s face it. Depending on where you live, and at least out here in Southern California, there is a dentist on every corner, and what is going to make you choose one over another? It’s not that you can sell more, but it’s that you can connect more; if you can connect with patients, and the way that you connect with them is through positive and eloquent communication, then more importantly than you being connected to them, you are delivering to your patients exactly what they want, and not what they don’t. So, it’s not that you’re trying to—and I hear this all the time about upselling… “oh, well I don’t like to go to this dentist. They tried to upsell me.” Well, what is sad to me when I hear that is that it may have really been something that was ideal for the patient, but it was in the delivery and the connection that there was a breakdown; there was a breakdown in communicating effectively. Why? This was something that the patient wanted. Not that they necessarily needed, and I’ll tell you that that word drives me crazy, because nobody like to hear what they need. It’s kind of like when you go in, and you’ve got one bad tire, and they say, “oh, you’re going to need all four tires,” nobody wants to need that! (laughs) and even if you feel like you do, it’s more of understanding the wants of the patient, so if you can always relay that back to them, and if you know that health is important to them, then your approach to them is connecting to the patient through health. “Because I know that your health is important to you, this is why I recommend x y z.” If you know that fear and pain are what drives and motivates a patient, then you come from that approach. “Because I know that you are concerned about pain, then what I would recommend is x y z.” So, if you don’t spend any time building bridges, connecting with patients, and understanding exactly what motivates them, what they’re interested in and what they want, and if you have the same canned conversations or scripts every time, then you’re going to have a breakdown; you’re not going to meet everyone.
Reese: Well this has been an awesome segment on communication; I really feel like this is an area that I feel you dive really deep into with your clients. And I think that one of the big differentiators between a practice that really thrives and maybe one that is more average, or even struggling… let’s talk about the value of team meetings, and how often you recommend having them.
Patty: I think team meetings are vital. Again, kind of going back to communication, it’s the only way to keep everybody on the same page, and it creates accountability. It helps give some actual business time that is dedicated to the practice for everyone to know what that are responsible for, it creates accountability, it creates some “by when” dates to complete projects, things of that nature, and it also helps eliminate any miscommunications. It is also a great time for training. If you have some computer train or things like that that you want to do, or some clinical training, or if you get a new piece of equipment, these are the great times to utilize your team meetings for. As far as how often, a lot of it will depend on the size of the practice, and how many time members there are, and where they are in the life of the practice. If this is a team that has a lot of issues going on, their team meetings might need to be a little more frequent; for a streamline team that just operates like a well-oiled machine, they may not need to have them as often. But as a baseline, I would say that a team that has got over 10-12 employees, I would recommend at least twice a month minimum for about two hours every time. For teams that are smaller than that, then every two weeks for one hour is usually ideal. The most important things for team meetings—I’ll tell you that they get a bad rep, because it’s production time, right? I mean, that’s money that the office could be generating for production, and I get that. What I’ll tell you is that it costs a lot more in overtime when you have to have conversations about miscommunication, or to try to invest in training. There are a lot of things that cost you more in production time then having these team meetings. The way you make them productive and not complaining sessions is structure: I recommend a template that is segmented into groups of different types of discussions. You might have fifteen minutes allotted for old business or reviewing the practice; you’ve got x amount of minutes for discussing new projects, and x amount of minutes reserved for training; you have a timer. There are so many elements to it so that this way, it runs so efficiently that you are done at exactly the right time, and again, you are getting everyone on the same page so that when everyone walks away, we know what everyone is responsible for by when they are responsible for delivering x y z, and it’s also a time to celebrate the success of the practice. We know what’s working well and what is not; this is a great time to celebrate that, and to dig deep on what is not working well, and to improve.
Reese: Tell me a little bit about how that differs from a “daily huddle.” What is the objective of these two things?
Patty: The daily huddle is your game plan for the day; it’s a time to create a strategy for every day, and every day is going to be slightly unique as to where you’re going to have pinch points in the schedule, where you want to see emergency patients, what opportunities you have today. It’s all about today and tomorrow, and so that is where your focus is for the morning huddle.
Reese: So the reason I’m asking this question is because I think sometimes, people might mix the objectives of those two meetings, and that sometimes the clinical discussion, or the scheduling discussion might bleed over into the team meeting, and less project management related activity, and business improvement, and training… it just seems like it gets squeezed out sometimes.
Patty: It does, and I think that the team meetings… I almost want to call the sometimes “the team business meeting,” because it is more of what it is. It’s more about what is going on in the business, and so it’s where you kind of step out of the clinical side, and focus on the business, and the huddle is “what are we doing today and tomorrow to make this a great day and create opportunities for ourselves and our patients?” You are touching on the business side a little bit, but it’s more about how you’re going on the field, and you need to know what your strategy is going to be in order to make it a win. That’s why they call it a huddle!
Reese: That makes sense. Let’s rap up with this question because I think it might be a good one that you could bring some insight to: what are the keys to having a successful relationship with that person? Because I feel like there are a lot of people that end up having mixed experiences as well, and it’s probably not always the consultant’s fault, and that’s the only fault that I hear (laughs). I never hear a dentist say, “you know what? I’m just not proactively communicating with my CPA.” It’s always, “my CPA is just not communicating with me effectively,” or “my consultant really didn’t help me,” or “my attorney is not really good,” or “my financial advisor is really not that helpful.” I think sometimes, there’s a combination, obviously, and I know my dentists know this, and our audience knows this, but what is the key to having a successful relationship with a consultant, and how do you know how to pick the right one?
Patty: That’s such a great question. I’ll tell you, there are so many amazing consultants and coaches out there, and I am a product of having relationships with many of them through my career, and I learned so much, and so there are a lot of really great ones out there. I think first and foremost, the most important thing to consider when you’re hiring a coach or a consultant for your practice is to ask really really good questions, because if you are going to invest in a relationship with someone, it’s important that you know if they are going to be a good fit, and not every coach or consultant is a good fit. It’s kind of like a marriage: either it’s a good fit or it’s not. It’s like a team member: they are a good fit, or they are not. So, asking really good questions is key; I like to think that if you’re a really great coach or consultant… the best ones are the ones you are not married to for life, and say that all the time, because if you are married to them for life, then, gosh, they might not be doing a very good job as a coach if you need me forever (laughs). If you need a shot in the arm, or maybe you’ve had some recent turnover, some people have retired, or just for whatever reason you need kind of a kick start again, that’s great! Or if you’re wanting to expand, or you are taking a new direction, that’s a great time to reach out to a coach. If you have to rely on a coach forever, it is probably not the best relationship; maybe you’re not getting anywhere. But I think that asking really good questions is the best place to start. A great question to ask would be, “how do your clients describe you?” That is a really tell-tale—I would like to know what my clients say about me. How would they describe how I coach and the results they’ve gotten? Another great question that a doctor might ask is, “how do you define success as a coach or consultant?” How many times are doctors asked that question? I’m sure they are sick of hearing that all the time: how do you define success? So, let’s turn the tables and ask the coach that! Because one of the things that I find in listening to coaches and consultants talk sometimes is that it is always about production and the money, and I will tell you firsthand that when I speak to many doctors and have that initial phone call, at least 50% of the time, it has nothing to do with that when it comes to their goals: they want to be happy; a lot of them want to be less stressed; they want their team to get along; money is the last thing they talk about. Really knowing what your doctors are wanting ultimately, and what happiness means to them– because success isn’t always about money
Reese: In a business coach and a business consulting setting, I think it’s really important to know that the doctor’s happiness may not be driven by maximizing his income or maximizing his collections. I mean, he really might be more content with a certain lifestyle, or a certain type of practice or clinical competency, or the quality of care they might want to provide is just different to the next person; some dentists are like purist artisans—
Patty: What I often find, though—and having said that, that success isn’t always about money is that the byproduct of good communication and being happy, and having a cohesive team—it’s almost like the success financially is like the byproduct of all those things. It comes. It comes automatically because you are not chasing it so hard. Your focus is on the intangible, if you will, and then all of the byproduct is the success on the financial side; I see it all the time. And I have to say, I want to speak to your point about how sometimes a doctor will say things like “can you just come in, and… let’s do à la carte menu of coaching/consulting. Can you just come in and do this?” I’m okay with that, and I’ll tell you why: when I go in and I have an opportunity to do that, I learn so much that I can now present. Now I know why this isn’t working, because of this, this, and this. And you can choose to address these things or not, and I leave that decision in the hands of the doctor; that’s not mine to make. Generally, there is a much bigger thing going on, because everything is connected, but you still have to give doctors and opportunity sometimes to know that they don’t know all of the time what is going on. They are working in the mouths, which is where we want them to be, and sometimes they don’t know the things that are going on, or why things are not going on the way they are supposed to, and I’m okay with that. If you have a coach that says, “no it’s one program, and you have to sign the contract for a year…” It’s not that that’s a bad thing, but I’m okay with trying out something and learning a little bit about the practice, and about the team, and what the doctor’s goals are, and if it’s just one thing I’m okay with that, because I know that there is more later that may come. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. The most important thing is that I’m meeting their needs.
Reese: I completely agree, and I think that’s the most effective way to develop a deeper relationship with someone. I think that’s important philosophically, at least for me, and I think that I like to see businesses that have levels of engagement. So, if someone comes to us and says, “I just really need this 401K plan,” or “I want to set up an emergency fund,” or “I’ve got to have a Roth IRA for whatever reason, I mean, that’s not necessarily comprehensive treatment, but it does give us a chance to interact with someone and say, “okay, we’ve solved this problem: let’s look at something else. Let’s take a look at this thing that, now we’ve got to know you a little bit, we can properly diagnose something a little bit better and a little bit more effectively.” I think it’s important to be able to engage people on a limited scope to get them to know that any engagement is better than no engagement—
Patty: And what you’re talking about goes right back to what we talked about with connecting with patients: sometimes there is a level of trust that has to be earned and developed, and building those connections sometimes is a slow start, and that is okay. You’ve got to give some latitude sometimes; I totally agree.
Reese: Yeah, and I guess just to circle back to the comment I was making earlier about finance, I think that because people—and you kind of wrapped this up really nicely—most people don’t care about money as their first priority; they’re not money-focused. Ultimately, these good behaviors, whether it’s good communication and good practice management, or good financial planning, it results in more wealth in the financial planning case; better financial planning just results in a higher net worth and faster net worth growth overall. In the practice side, eventually, more comprehensive practice management, coaching, and training just result in more profitability and more income. I think people sometimes are hesitant to engage because the focus is sometimes about the money or about the profitability, rather than the tangible, like you said, or the tangible experience of having a better practice, a higher-quality practice, one that provides better care for patients, and better treatment, similarly, a financial plan that gives people more organization, more control, a much more clear picture of every area of their financial life. It just allows people to sort of relax and forget about the money, and the profitability, and the collections, but somehow, it’s there in greater quantity than it ever would have been otherwise. The money is there, it’s just they didn’t have to obsess and focus on it because they were focused on these intangibles that just resulted in more money and more wealth. I think that is really when you have arrived at the apex of sophistication when it comes to all of these concepts: you’re doing all of them, and money is not the focus, but you’re earning more, and you’re more profitable, and your financial planning is just running like a well-oiled machine, but the whole time, you were really never obsessing over the money. I just think that’s a good way to wrap it up.
Patty: I totally agree. The communication is kind of the nugget piece that ties it all together.
Reese: It totally is. I think that most people don’t really look at communication as the core of practice management; I don’t think they look at it that way. I’m not saying that you’ve put it in that simple of terms, I’m just saying that you’re highlighting today that it is definitely one of the most important things you’re focused on. And I would argue, just as an outsider who is a patient and an observer, I would say that’s the primary differentiator to me between really successful practices and ones that struggle is that they have found a way to build a team and themselves to be expert communicators. People who are expert communicators/ these expert sales people, because communication and sales to me—you’re not selling things that people don’t need, you’re just presenting the treatment that is best for them given their budget and their goals and their personal preferences. You are just presenting it in the right way, and people are more likely to choose it when you do it that way. Anyway, I think this has been really crucial. Let’s have you wrap up with your final thoughts on this topic, and then we will let everyone go. Any parting thoughts you’d like to leave with everyone, Patty?
Patty: Absolutely! I want to thank you, first of all, for having me on. As we talked about earlier, this was my first podcast; this was super fun. I really enjoyed myself, and I’m so glad I had an opportunity to kind of express how important communication is to me. You can tell I’m really passionate about it; it’s a word that gets thrown about over and over, and we hear about it all the time, and yet it’s the one area that we generally spend the least amount of time focusing on, and so I would really encourage doctors and their teams to take the time to kind of identify a couple of challenges, or maybe the top three challenges they have in the practice and really sit down with their teams and kind of hammer out some ideas and brainstorm with your team, “how can we communicate this better? What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like?” Practice those things, and begin videotaping yourself, or recording yourself so that you can improve not only as a team member or a doctor, but just even as a human being in how you talk to everyone. I think that most people will find that people will recognize how well they communicate, and you will be more successful as a person in general when you work on yourself in this area.
Reese: That’s an awesome way to end it. Thank you so much Patty, you’ve got a great insight into this topic. It’s amazing—we could probably go for several hours into the nuances of communication; we barely scratched the surface today, and I look forward to having you on the show again soon! Thank you so much for taking the time, and all of your information will be in the show notes, and people will be able to get a hold of you.
Patty: Thank you, and thank you for doing what you do, Reese! We appreciate it.
Reese: Yeah, thanks Patty! We look forward to having you on again soon.
Patty: Thank you.
Ryan: Our thanks to Patty Ricard! Nicely done. I know I’m not a dentist, but in the financial world, I know it’s easy as an advisor to slip into technical language when I’m talking to a client sometimes, and I can imagine the same thing happens in dentistry when you’re with a patient, and you break into dental-ese, or this pattern referred to, and it’s a good reminder that we all need to simplify the way we communicate. I hope it hit you the same way it hit me. Once again, if you’re ready to talk to your advisor about your financial goals, be sure to visit dentistadvisors.com and click “Book a Free Consultation.” You’ll choose a time on our calendar, and we’ll have a time to assess your personal situation and show you how we can help you get more organized and start tracking your financial performance. If it’s more convenient, just give us a call or text us at 833-DDSPLAN. As Reese would say, carry on.Practice Management